When on a road trip, it’s all well and good to enjoy the scenery from inside the car – especially when it’s raining! – but, (aside from when nature calls) I feel that breaks are important, a) to get you out of the car to stretch your legs (Your hip flexors will thank you!), b) to actually enjoy a meal, and c) to pause and explore your surroundings. While you’re working on a) and c), you’ll also get your steps in – bonus!
Here is a little guide of places to stop and enjoy when making your way up and down the east coast of Vancouver Island
The World’s Largest Hockey Stick and Puck (Duncan, BC) – Canada is known for having many notable ‘largests’, including the largest UFO landing pad (naturally), and the largest artificial perogy. But, nothing says ‘Canada’ like having the world’s largest hockey stick and puck.
York Street Diner (Duncan, BC) – This place was a nice surprise for brunch, and they, rather refreshingly, have no website or social media presence. If I’m correct, the owners are British and have travelled a lot. There’s a sight British influence on the menu, and they have giraffe statues and all kinds of stuff around the restaurant. Most importantly, they make an excellent poached egg.
Bread & Honey Food Co. (Parksville, BC) – I will pull from their motto and say Bread & Honey is fresh, local, and sustainable. This cosy spot is small town meets a bit of hipster, without the irony. The food is on point and not too expensive, which makes this a popular breakfast spot. Be sure to make a reservation.
Tan’s Kitchen (Parksville, BC) – Another surprise. I live in Vancouver and grew up in Richmond. These are places known in Canada for having great Chinese restaurants. I never thought that I would have eaten some of the best wonton soup I’ve ever had (outside of Asia) in Parksville, BC. But I did. The Brit was all about finding an all you can eat, and this did not disappoint.
Get Thrifty: Order the all you can eat. Great value for your money.
40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery (Comox Valley, BC) – Though not a restaurant, I’m adding this to the list. 40 Knots is a family run, Green Tourism Gold certified vineyard and winery. They have a beautiful tasting room and because of the rain, we got a private tasting session with Brenda, one of the owners. You can tell she knows her stuff, and she was a warm and welcoming host. On a random note, try the pickled grapes. They are amazing.
Get Thrifty: 40 Knots does free tastings. (Yes!) Their wine club is also free to join with two reasonably priced options for a 6 or 12 bottle shipment, twice a year. If you are at the tasting room, the per bottle prices might seem a bit dear, but this is me enabling to buy the 2014 Levé Du Soleil Rosé sparkling wine because it is worth the splurge (both for the excellent taste and to support the message behind BC artwork of the label).
GET YOUR STEP ON:
Get Thrifty: These are all FREE (even the parking).
Duncan Totem Tour Walk (Duncan, BC) – Duncan is known for it’s totem poles and as a hub for the Cowichan Valley’s First Nations art. The city created this walk to celebrate their heritage and beautiful craftsmanship of the poles. The Brit really enjoys First Nations art, so this was right up his alley. Follow the yellow footsteps to each pole and mark them off on your list.
Neck Point Park (Nanaimo, BC) and Pipers Lagoon Park (Nanaimo, BC) – Nanaimo is known for having beautiful parks, and these two are no exception. They are each about a 30-45 min walk around with exceptional views.
Cathedral Grove (Port Alberni, BC) – Truly my favourite spot on the Island, Cathedral Grove is located in MacMillan Provincial Park and lives up to its name. Home to giant trees that are up to 800 years old, you feel sheltered and humbled as you walk around this beautiful ecosystem. If you want your ‘hug a tree’ photo, this is the place to do it. When you hug that tree, breathe with it. I’m serious. Take the moment. It will be the cherry on top for your walk around the trails. Set aside at least 30 minutes to enjoy this beautiful piece of land.
Seal Bay Nature Park (Comox Valley, BC) – If you come through this park on a non-rainy day, you might get to see some deer or beavers. Definitely some birds. If you see a black bear, hopefully, it will be from far away. This was a really nice little hike, with a well laid out trail.
Qualicum Beach (Qualicum Beach, BC) – If you want to take a beat and enjoy the view, here’s your spot. With 3 kilometres of beach to walk, this historic beach has delightfully warm water in the summer, which makes it excellent for swimming. When the tide is out, you can walk out across the sand flats for about 1000 metres, which in my opinion, is pretty darn cool.
The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
~ Gilbert K. Chesterton ~